The underlying assumption of Lukács’ History and Class Consciousness is that “history” can be understood as a unified and meaningful meta-narrative, which can be read along the lines of a realist novel. Although the future is not guaranteed, the present contains “objective possibilities” which can be identified and realized through activist intervention in the world by those who are destined to “make” history, the proletariat. In the intervening century since the Russian Revolution, it has become impossible to read “history” as (...) a singular, triumphalist story leading to human emancipation or identify any one group as its subjective agent. To salvage the revolutionary potential of Lukács’ work, it has been read instead in terms of “fidelity to the Event” by such latter-day Leninists as Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižik. But their recourse to a meta-historical notion of pre-figuration and future realization is itself no less beholden to a literary or rhetorical device, that of figura, which was traced by Erich Auerbach in originally religious terms. (shrink)
Force Fields collects the recent essays of Martin Jay, an intellectual historian and cultural critic internationally known for his extensive work on the history of Western Marxism and the intellectual migration from Germany to America.
After having promoted and then tacitly abandoned the rhetoric of postmodernism, Zygmunt Bauman settled on the metaphor of a modernity that was growing more ‘liquid’ and ‘lighter’ than before. This essay explores the strengths and weaknesses of these metaphors, and attempts to contextualize Bauman’s insights in what has been called by the historian Yuri Slezkine the ‘Mercurian’ culture of diasporic Jewish life.
Vision and the gaze are key issues in the analysis of racism, sexism and ethnocentrism. In recent radical theory, generally, and French theory in particular, vision has been seen as a means of control. But this view is often unnuanced. It bypasses questions such as: Why is it that contemporary theories have been so critical of vision, and generous towards listening (in psychoanalysis) and language (in philosophy)? This collection of original essays brings together historical studies and contemporary theoretical perspectives on (...) vision. The historical papers focus in turn on Ancient Greece, medieval theology, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the nineteenth century. These historical studies are themselves thoroughly informed by poststructuralist theory. They provide a rigorous background for several new, exciting articles on vision and its bearings for feminism, race, sexual orientation, film and art. This collection is the first of its kind in juxtaposing historical and contemporary. (shrink)
Among Carl Schmitt's most notable and controversial contributions to political theory was his claim that “all the significant concepts of the modern doctrine of the state are secularized theological concepts.” First formulated in 1922 in his Political Theology, this contention remained constant throughout his long career, as evidenced by its return in his Political Theology II, published in 1970. Here Schmitt's Cadtholic background was clearly apparent, for in so arguing, he was recapitulating the familiar topos of biblical prefiguration in which (...) the New Testament was understood as realizing the latent meaning of the Old. Viewing modern politics as merely the secularized version of a prior theology allowed Schmitt to develop his strong notion of the sovereign as a profane divinity with virtually all of the omnipotent attributes of its alleged sacred predecessor. (shrink)
This chapter explicates Theodor W. Adorno's dialectical engagement with inauthenticity and genuineness, two of the central tropes of his mature philosophy. The chapter discusses the extent to which Adorno's critique of genuineness in Minima Moralia and elsewhere was itself deeply indebted to Walter Benjamin's defense of mechanical reproduction against the aura and his notion of the mimetic faculty. It quickly becomes apparent that many of his “own” ideas betray precisely the kind of inauthenticity that he defended against the jargon. Or (...) if one wants to rely on his critical use of the term, it shows the non-auratic authenticity of the intellectual who knows himself not to be in full possession of his own ideas. Paradoxically, in his very lack of originality, his reworking without entirely duplicating many of his friend's most arresting ideas, Adorno took upon himself the stigma he urged everyone to embrace. (shrink)
No contemporary intellectual historian has produced more influential reflections on the historian’s craft than Hayden White and Quentin Skinner, yet their legacy has never been meaningfully compared. Doing so reveals a surprising complementarity in their approach, at least to the extent that Skinner’s stress on recovering the intentionality of authors fits well with White’s observation that irony is the dominant rhetorical mode of historical narrative in our day. Irony itself, to be sure, has to be divided broadly speaking into its (...) dramatic or Socratic variants and the unstable and paradoxical alternative defended by poststructuralist critics. The latter produced in White an anxiety about the anarchistic implications of an allegedly inherent undecidability in historical interpretation and narration, which threatened to conflate history entirely with fiction. By recovering the necessary role of intentionality as a prerequisite for a more moderate version of Socratic and dramatic irony—in which hindsight provides some purchase on a truth denied actors at the time history is made—it is possible to rescue an ironic attitude that can register the frequency of unintended consequences without surrendering to the conclusion that no explanation or interpretation is superior to another. Against yet a third alternative, which tries to reconstruct the past rationally as a prelude to the present, acknowledging the ironic undermining of intentions avoids giving all the power to the contemporary historian and restores a dialogic balance between actors in the past and their present-day interpreters. (shrink)
ABSTRACTTwo new books about the Pragmatist tradition, Richard Bernstein's The Pragmatic Turn and Colin Koopman's Pragmatism as Transition, represent respectively a summing up of the past half‐century of the tradition's history and a possible program for its future development. Bernstein ecumenically considers the achievements of a wide range of thinkers from Peirce, Dewey, and James to Brandom, Putnam, and Rorty, drawing valuable lessons from each, while not sparing criticism of their flaws. Koopman also tries to bridge the gap between what (...) he calls “classicopragmatism” and “neopragmatism,” although he finds more to admire in Rorty than in his predecessors. Whereas Bernstein attempts to supplement the pragmatist tradition by turning to Habermas, Koopman finds his inspiration in Foucault. Both authors emphasize the historicist, evolutionary, and transitionalist implications of pragmatism, paying as a result insufficient attention to the historical possibilities of repetition, rupture, discontinuity, and the unexpected event. In terms of the political implications they draw, Koopman advocates a meliorist incrementalism that lacks any real bite, while Bernstein expresses dissatisfaction with the democratic pieties of Rorty's final work, but doesn't really provide a sustained alternative. (shrink)
The elevation of aesthetic experience in the Enlightenment, most extensively developed in Kant's analysis of disinterested contemplation, to compensate for the loss of putatively objective standards of beauty had several problematic implications. One was the privileging of the subject who had the experience over the object that stimulated it. Another was the potential extension of that experience to objects that were never intended to be works of art, not merely to ones given in nature, but also to political, social and (...) cultural phenomena whose ethical or cognitive dimensions were concomitantly suppressed or marginalized. The aestheticization of the commonplace could thus countenance an inappropriate imperialism of the aesthetic sub-system of modernity over alternative sub-systems. Although the pragmatist aesthetics of John Dewey, recently revived in the work of Richard Shusterman, has acknowledged a need to revitalize the role of the art object, it may too quickly postulate a notion of aesthetic experience in which the equiprimordiality of subject and object is assumed. It is perhaps better to hold on to a tense constellation between art objects and the experience they generate in subjects in order to avoid a premature sublation of what remains still unreconciled in the larger culture. (shrink)
Vision and the gaze are key issues in the analysis of racism, sexism and ethnocentrism. In recent radical theory, generally, and French theory in particular, vision has been seen as a means of control. But this view is often unnuanced. It bypasses questions such as: Why is it that contemporary theories have been so critical of vision, and generous towards listening and language? This collection of original essays brings together historical studies and contemporary theoretical perspectives on vision. The historical papers (...) focus in turn on Ancient Greece, medieval theology, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the nineteenth century. These historical studies are themselves thoroughly informed by poststructuralist theory. They provide a rigorous background for several new, exciting articles on vision and its bearings for feminism, race, sexual orientation, film and art. This collection is the first of its kind in juxtaposing historical and contemporary. (shrink)
Because of his preoccupation with the formal aspects of music and literature, Theodor W. Adorno is often regarded as the most aesthetically oriented thinker of the Frankfurt School theorists. It is Adorno’s perceived commitment to aestheticism—the study of art for art’s sake and the study of art as a source of sensuous pleasure, rather than as a vehicle for culturally constructed morality or meaning—that many scholars have criticized as hostile to genuine, concrete, substantive political, social, and ethical engagement with the (...) arts. _Adorno and Ethics_—the first issue of _New German Critique_ to be published by Duke University Press—takes issue with Adorno’s critics. These essays reconsider Adorno’s unique brand of aestheticism, revealing a “politics of aestheticism” and exploring the political and ethical dimensions of his writings. One contributor links the ethical turn taken in Adorno criticism with related developments in American poetry and poetics. Another examines Adorno’s aphorism “Gold Assay” for the ways in which it anticipates one of his seminal works, _The Jargon of Authenticity_. Focusing on Auschwitz and the testimony of its survivors, one contributor explores the impact of the Holocaust on modern philosophy and reason, a relationship that he argues Adorno never specified. Another contributor considers the figure of the animal in the writings of Kant, Adorno, and Lévinas, exploring what it might mean to live, as Adorno suggests, as “a good animal.” _Contributors_. J. M. Bernstein, Detlev Claussen, Samir Gandesha, Alexander García Düttmann, Christina Gerhardt, Martin Jay, Robert Kaufman, Michael Marder, Gerhard Richter. (shrink)
Long considered "the noblest of the senses," vision has increasingly come under critical scrutiny by a wide range of thinkers who question its dominance in Western culture. These critics of vision, especially prominent in twentieth-century France, have challenged its allegedly superior capacity to provide access to the world. They have also criticized its supposed complicity with political and social oppression through the promulgation of spectacle and surveillance. Martin Jay turns to this discourse surrounding vision and explores its often contradictory implications (...) in the work of such influential figures as Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, Guy Debord, Luce Irigaray, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida. Jay begins with a discussion of the theory of vision from Plato to Descartes, then considers its role in the French Enlightenment before turning to its status in the culture of modernity. From consideration of French Impressionism to analysis of Georges Bataille and the Surrealists, Roland Barthes's writings on photography, and the film theory of Christian Metz, Jay provides lucid and fair-minded accounts of thinkers and ideas widely known for their difficulty. His book examines the myriad links between the interrogation of vision and the pervasive antihumanist, antimodernist, and counter-enlightenment tenor of much recent French thought. Refusing, however, to defend the dominant visual order, he calls instead for a plurality of "scopic regimes." Certain to generate controversy and discussion throughout the humanities and social sciences, _Downcast Eyes_ will consolidate Jay's reputation as one of today's premier cultural and intellectual historians. (shrink)
The popularity of films like Titanic betokens a massive shift in the nature of aesthetic spectatorship in our time. The contemplative, distanced viewer who is able to judge from afar the spectacle before him or her, has been replaced by a more proximate, involved "kinaesthetic" subject whose body is stimulated as much as his or her eye. This is evident not only in mass culture with amusement thrill rides and the return of what has been called the "cinema of attractions"; (...) this new spectator can also be discerned in avant-garde culture, as shown by the Sensation exhibition of Young British Artists which caused such a stir in London and New York. This spectator is especially attracted to simulacral scenes of destruction and catastrophe, in which he or she is virtually immersed. If aesthetic judgement is to be a model for its political counterpart, as has been argued by theorists like Lyotard and Arendt, it cannot do so on the basis of this aesthetics of violent immersion. (shrink)
Taking on the stigma of inauthenticity : Adorno's critique of genuineness -- Is experience still in crisis? : reflections on a Frankfurt school lament -- Mourning a metaphor: the revolution is over -- Cultural relativism and the visual turn -- Scopic regimes of modernity revisited -- No state of grace : violence in the garden -- Visual parrhesia? : Foucault and the truth of the gaze -- The Kremlin of modernism -- Phenomenology and lived experience -- Aesthetic experience and historical (...) experience : a twenty-first-century constellation -- Still waiting to hear from derrida -- Pseudology : Derrida on Arendt and lying in politics -- The menace of consilience : keeping the disciplines unreconciled -- Can there be national philosophies in a transnational world? -- Straddling a watershed? -- Allons enfants de l'humanité : the French and human rights -- Intellectual family values : William Phillips, Hannah Arendt, and the Partisan review -- Still sleeping rough : Colin Wilson's the outsider at fifty. (shrink)